Madrid beats Atletico in shootout, wins Spanish Super Cup

Real Madrid has beaten Atletico Madrid in a penalty shootout to win the new-look Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Madrid won Sunday’s shootout 4-1 after the final ended 0-0 after extra time.

Dani Carvajal, Rodrygo, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos all converted their spot kicks for Madrid.

Atletico’s Saul Niguez missed his first penalty and Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois blocked the second attempt by Thomas Partey. Kieran Trippier converted for Atletico.

Madrid played the final five minutes of added time with 10 men after Federico Valverde was shown a direct red for fouling Alvaro Morata when he only had Courtois to beat.

Madrid also beat Atletico on penalties in the 2016 Champions League final.

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Real Madrid's victory was recovering their greatness

Maybe an explanation is needed to understand what happened at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.It's lawful to be indignant. It was known. Because referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez is always wrong on the same side in the Clasico.

But the mistakes he made a few years ago were different. Real Madrid could take some solace from the non-existence of VAR, but those errors aren't as expectable now with its presence.Madrid, though, have more reasons to be happy than upset after the draw.

1.Zinedine Zidane has done it again. He's built a team from ashes and breathed life into a group who looked utterly defeated.

2. The depression of losing Cristiano Ronaldo has been overcome. What was a near-fatal disease is now forgotten, and they even delivered that Camp Nou performance without their biggest star in Eden Hazard.

3. The commitment to young players is bearing fruit. Fede Valverde cost five million euros and Frenkie de Jong cost Barcelona 75 million euros.

4. Isco has returned and Zidane is recovering a player who seemed finished at Real Madrid.

5. Gareth Bale is at a level that seemed impossible for him to rediscover in a white shirt just a few weeks ago.

6. Zidane said that LaLiga Santander was priority this season, and it shows.

In recent seasons the title had been lost before December, but they're still in the race this year.Yes, the refereeing was bad. But Zidane's team showed a lot at the Camp Nou. That, in some ways, was their victory.

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Catalonia: Pro-Independence Rally at Real Madrid Soccer Match

The "Democratic Tsunami" called nonviolent civil disobedience actions on the day when a "classic" soccer match is expected to be watched by over 600 million people.

Over 32,000 Catalans have confirmed their participation in the pro-independence rally that will be staged two hours before the Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer match begins at the Nou Stadium in Barcelona at 6:00 pm local time on Wednesday.

RELATED: Spain: Catalan Parliament Presses for Independence

This protest was summoned by the "Democratic Tsunami" (Tsunami Democràtic), which is a pro-independence movement that seeks to make people aware of the Catalonian struggle.

Barcelona and Real Madrid, two internationally well-known teams, will perform the so-called "classic match," an event that will be broadcasted by transnational mainstream media, which expect to reach over 600 million viewers worldwide.

The Democratic Tsunami is a movement that the Catalans created through social networks on Sep. 2 to channel their dissatisfaction with the imprisonment of pro-independence activists.

Its first public action took place on Oct. 14, when the Spanish authorities sentenced the "Proces Case" activists, who were involved in the 2017 pro-independence referendum, to prison.

On that day the Democratic Tsunami showed its mobilizing capacity by blocking the Barcelona airport, where thousands gathered to reject persecution against pro-independence leaders.

"The Democratic Tsunami is committed to nonviolent civil disobedience that is carried out through pressure actions in which thousands gather at specific places," local outlet El Periodico commented.

They are people who reissue a clandestine logic of action in which "each individual has a task and seeks another person to communicate the task to the next person... They are attached to the territory. Some are grass-root party militants and others are not. There are no leaders or spokespersons.”

Besides protesting at sites near the Neu Stadium, Catalan pro-independence activists could throw inflatable balls towards the playing field during the soccer match.

In response to the foreseeable increase in police surveillance, the Catalonia government president Quim Torra said that the "right to protest" should be respected and explained that pro-independence activists will express their opinions calmly in the surroundings of the Nou Stadium

The Barca's stadium "has always been a space where people have expressed themselves freely. Tonight they will express themselves freely and calmly and we will enjoy a great match," Torra said.​​​​​​​

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LaLiga: First El Clasico of season between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be won or lost in midfield

Up until Jornada 10, LaLiga seemed to be going a different way in comparison to the previous few seasons. The dominance of Real Madrid, Barcelona for the top spot had been questioned and the gap at the top was little. Newly-promoted and smaller of the Andalusian teams in Granada occupied the top spot. They were leading the Primera Division for the first time in 46 years! As a football fan, you felt giddy, you hoped for some sort of fairytale to happen — much like the Leicester City of Premier League or Deportivo La Coruña in 2000.

But a week later, the duo scored five goals each against Leganes and Real Valladolid to make it one-two battle once again.

 LaLiga: First El Clasico of season between Barcelona and Real Madrid to be won or lost in midfield

Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw by Real Sociedad on the weekend. They come into the Clasico as league leaders. AP

You win, I win. You draw, I draw. That has been the theme to things ever since. When Barcelona slipped at Levante (losing 3-1), Real Madrid were held to a stalemate by Betis. Four wins later for both, Barca were once again the first to drop points. Real Sociedad denied Barca all three points at Anoeta while Real Madrid needed a 95th-minute goal from Karim Benzema to get something from Mestalla.

Now we come to the big one. It was scheduled for 26 October but was postponed due to protests in Barcelona following sentences handed out to political leaders as part of the independence referendum. La Liga wished it to be played on 4 December but the clubs' agreed date, and that ratified by Spanish FA, of 18 December, stuck.

16 matches played, 35 points apiece but Barcelona sit top thanks to a better goal difference — which at the end of the season counts for nothing. In Spain, the head-to-head is the tiebreaker if two teams finish on points. Where Barca have scored 43 goals, Real have tallied 33. At the back, Barca have let in 20 goals while Madrid have conceded 12. This stat highlights the major strengths and concerns for both teams.

Barcelona have a strong forward line and can get goals aplenty with Lionel Messi on 12, Luis Suarez on 9 and Antoine Griezmann on 6. Real Madrid have put their faith squarely in Benzema to get goals. He has 12 with defender Sergio Ramos the next best at 3.

In defence, Barcelona have looked shoddy throughout the season and have lacked the solidity that is needed. For the fixture tonight, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet make up the centre back pairing with Sergi Roberto likely to occupy the right side. Jordi Alba, fit once again, is expected to come in at left-back and provide the attacking threat with his galloping runs and off the ball movement provide.

Real Madrid players celebrate the goal of their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, December 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

Real Madrid salvaged a point at Mestalla courtesy a Karim Benzema goal in stoppage time. AP

For Real, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane will take shape at centre back, Dani Carvajal at right-back. The left-back slot remains up for grabs with Marcelo injured. Zinedine Zidane could bring in Ferland Mendy who is once again available following suspension, or stick to Nacho Fernandez. Mendy would be a smarter guess considering his ability to whip in neat crosses and solid defensive skills.

Midfield dictates play, it dictates flow from back to forward and most importantly, the tempo of the game. The game will be won or lost by the team which does well in the midfield. Barcelona are expected to have three in the middle: Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. Messi and Suarez can drop in deep if the situation demands, leaving Griezmann for the counter-attacking moves which are a strong possibility with this Real Madrid side, which can be caught out between the lines.

Another option is to have Griezmann hug the touchline with Suarez becoming the goal-scoring threat in the middle and Messi playing as the number 10.

Alba, if he plays, also provides an option to run in on the wings with Messi's clinical through balls or chips to keep Carvajal busy. Alba then has what it takes to provide neatly struck cutbacks for the attackers to slot home.

Real Madrid's Casemiro (in white) squares off with Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Source: LaLiga

Casemiro stayed on the bench against Valencia but is expected to marshal the midfield and defence at Camp Nou. Source: LaLiga

Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Federico Valverde and Casemiro could all come in and form the playing XI with either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1 style helped by the attacking options in Benzema and Rodrygo. Modric and Kroos had started the season, not in the fittest of shapes or with the sharpest of football on the pitch but as things have progressed, they've improved. This has shown in how Real have played their football as well. What is important is to keep that level high in order to put the pressure on Barcelona. At Valencia, Real started well, moved the ball around quickly but fizzled as it drew forward.

Other formations could be a 4-1-3-2 with Modric, Kroos and Valverde in midfield, Casemiro the linkup between defence and midfield with Rodrygo and Benzema upfront. It appears unlikely that Zidane would start with Vinicius Jr. or Gareth Bale. When asked about the Welshman (again) in the buildup to the fixture, Zidane said he was someone who was training well and "an important player" without dwelling on his chances of getting a second start since early October.

If Zidane were to be bolder, he could play a 4-1-2-3 with Casemiro doing the dirty, mopping up work behind Kroos and Modric/Valverde with Isco, Benzema and Rodrygo starting.

For all the permutations and combinations, Casemiro being a part of the playing XI is a certainty and his role extremely important — a fact established further by the Brazilian getting to warm the bench at Valencia in order to not get suspended for the Clasico.

There are quite a few options for both Zidane and Ernesto Valverde to explore for the first Clasico of the season. If things hold up with how LaLiga has turned out this season, it could matter a whole lot by Jornada 38!

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Real Madrid go top after narrow win at Alaves

Real Madrid moved to the top of LaLiga with a 2-1 win at Alaves.

Captain Sergio Ramos headed Los Blancos in front early in the second half, before then giving away a penalty which saw Lucas Perez equalise.

Zinedine Zidane’s side soon restored their lead when Dani Carvajal bundled the ball in from close range as they moved three points clear of Barcelona, who play at Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Real had seen Paris St Germain fight back with two late goals to draw their Champions League match on Tuesday night, but were not expected to be given much concern at the Mendizorrotza Stadium.

Gareth Bale was drafted in for a first start since early October, with Alphonse Areola replacing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric also returning to the team. Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard missed out as he nursed an ankle problem.

The hosts started brightly. Aleix Vidal went down in the Real Madrid penalty area under a challenge from Eder Militao but the winger was shown a yellow card for simulation.

Bale almost broke the deadlock in the 11th minute after Isco had clipped the ball across from the left.

The Wales forward – at the centre of another country-versus-club row during the international break – glanced a header goalwards which beat the static Alaves keeper, but bounced back off a post.

Carvajal then picked out Isco, but the midfielder sent a close-range effort over.

Bale – criticised for his recent “Wales. Golf. Madrid” flag celebration – was not able to get enough contact on an effort at the back post, with Fernando Pacheco making a comfortable save.

On the half-hour mark, Alaves went close when defender Ximo Navarro put the ball wide after it came back in from a corner.

Pacheco was called into action again late in the first half to push away a 20-yard drive from Casemiro.

The tempo remained low-key during the opening exchanges of the second half, played out in driving rain.

Real Madrid finally broke the deadlock after 52 minutes. Toni Kroos floated in a deep free-kick, and captain Ramos was left unmarked to glance a header into the bottom corner.

Alaves were sparked into life after going behind.

The home fans were twice calling for a penalty, first for a handball by Modric and then what looked a trip by Ramos.

Referee Guillermo Cuadra did point to the spot in the 65th minute after Ramos pushed Joselu in the face with his trailing arm, and was shown a yellow card.

Perez, the former Arsenal and West Ham forward, made no mistake from the penalty.

But Real were soon back in front after 69 minutes.

Modric floated the ball in from the right. Isco’s header at the back post came back off the woodwork and Carvajal bundled the ball in from close range.

Alaves forced a string of corners during the closing moments, as Perez’s point-blank effort was blocked and then a header from Manu Garcia was saved by Areola.

The visitors closed out eight minutes of added time – with substitute Federico Valverde dragging a golden late chance wide.

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Bernabeu set to host two of the sides which run the least in the Champions League

A star-studded fixture awaits the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night as Real Madrid face Paris Saint-Germain, but it might not be the most dogged affair as the two European heavyweights are among the three sides to have covered the least ground in this season's competition.

Thomas Tuchel's side have covered just 419.6 kilometres in their opening four encounters while Real Madrid have covered 420.5 kilometres, slightly ahead of Barcelona (420.4km).

Yet rather down to lethargy, the figures reflect the usual dominance of possession that these sides enjoy across the 90 minutes of each match. As a result, their players rarely have to cover long distances as they make the ball do the work.

Madrid enter the game having practically qualified from Group A to the knockout stages, but they need to defeat PSG to stand any chance of finishing first, as they are currently five points behind the Parisians with two games left.

Slavia Prague have been one of the teams that has attracted the most attention in the competition due to their bold approach which caught Barcelona by surprise. It is no surprise that they are the side which has run more than any other in this year's edition.

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Rodrygo snatches Real chance

Real Madrid's Rodrygo is making the most of his opportunities. Against Galatasaray, he bagged the quickest brace from the opening whistle (6:14) in tournament history and became the youngest Brazilian to ever score in the competition.

The hat-trick hero's efforts in the 6-0 win should help the teen vault an abundance of right-sided players on Zinedine Zidane's bench. Gareth Bale remains persona non grata, and Lucas Vazquez and the oft-injured James Rodriguez haven't exactly impressed.

In four starts in all competitions, Rodrygo has five goals and has scored once every 74 minutes. Vazquez has one goal in 364 minutes, and Rodriguez has the same total in 422 minutes. It's no coincidence that Real doubled their group-stage haul in a stellar first half galvanized by Rodrygo's influence. His ability to switch to the left like he did when Isco came on for Eden Hazard doesn't hurt either.

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Zidane dismisses speculation over Bale's future at Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane insists Gareth Bale was given permission by Real Madrid to travel to London on Monday, and claims the Welshman never talks about leaving the club.

Bale has not played since injuring his calf during a game for Wales on October 13 and his trip to England has prompted speculation he will seek an exit from Madrid in January.

But Zidane insists Bale had permission to be absent on Monday and Tuesday morning and that he is not aware the 30-year-old wants to be sold.

"It was a personal issue and he had permission yesterday to go," Zidane said in a press conference on Tuesday.

"It was a personal issue and he went, that's it, no story. He also went because he's not available to play.

"But I don't think he ever speaks about leaving. When he is available he plays, that's all there is to it."

Bale came close to a move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning last summer after Zidane said it would be "best for everyone" if he left Real Madrid.

But the deal fell through at the last minute due to a disagreement over the transfer fee and Zidane is not expecting any fresh offers in January.

- Unimpressed -

"I don't think there will be an offer and I haven't thought about it either. Gareth is a Real Madrid player," said Zidane.

"What happened in the summer was the situation at the time and in the end Gareth stayed and all the better for everyone.

"It's true what was said didn't help but for me the result is the most important thing. He's an important player and it's important he plays and he plays well.

"If in January he says he'll stay, there will be talk about the transfer window in the summer. Unfortunately people will always speak about these things but he's here and everyone is happy he's here."

Zidane claimed he has a "good relationship" with Bale but sources have told AFP the forward remains on bad terms with the Frenchman.

Bale was particularly unimpressed by his omission from Madrid's squad to face Club Brugge in the Champions League earlier this month.

After the match, Zidane put his absence down to a fitness issue but those close to Bale insist he was fully fit.

"I spoke to him and I spoke to James (Rodriguez). Both of them weren't available to play against Brugge and they didn't play," said Zidane. "There's nothing else to say about that."

Bale will miss Madrid's La Liga game at home to Leganes on Wednesday, along with Nacho, who has a knee problem, and Marco Asensio, who is recovering from a anterior cruciate ligament injury.

James Rodriguez is also unlikely to be involved as he missed training on Tuesday due to the birth of his child.

Real Madrid are sixth in the table but only two points off the top, with a game in hand.

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